books, community, Encouragement, family, Mental Health, reading, writing, Young Adult fiction

It Is Not Too Much To Ask For A Happy Ending

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Welcome to the latest instalment of “I complain intensely/humorously (we hope) about current trends in fiction that annoy the bananas out of me.” Apparently this is turning into a theme recently…

Personally, I like a happy ending. I understand that not all stories will have a completely happy ending, because sometimes that’s part of the point of the tale. And I am not against a few deaths/sad events/bad things happening, especially since most stories would be pretty boring and the characters wouldn’t grow without it. Also, life is not all rainbows and jello; so it’s not very relatable for fictional characters to never suffer.

However.Β Do we really have to have the entire weight of the world come down repeatedly on a single character? Do we really have to have all the worst possible scenarios occur in the same book?

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I say no. I say we can totally have a tale like this: An orphan flees a cruel foster family and gets captured by native “savages,” who turn out to be nice, but they all die from an unexplained illness; so the orphan gets scooped up by a roaming band of misfits who are in search of buried treasure. With an ending like this: The orphan finds the treasure before any of the misfits do, digs it up in the middle of the night, and comes across a native survivor of the illness; they make it to the nearest town, where they tell the authorities about the misfits, and the orphan and the survivor go to a beautiful island to raise hedgehogs.

Okay, so as all you flail over my imaginative genius (and sorry, I probably won’t write this in the near future — don’t you remember my last post?)… My point is that more books like that need to be available on the market. Especially for YA and MG target audiences.

Yes, real life is tough. There are times it flatout sucks. I know that; I have not lived in a flower-filled meadow my entire existence. But what keeps me going when it seems Mordor is about to swallow the whole galaxy in absolute darkness? Hope. The possibility for something positive to happen.

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We have to have hope. Or stubborn determination to get through the horrible stuff.Β Something.Β 

We need something to look forward to. And we need imagination. Having realistic expectations for life is important (in fact, it’s kind of necessary). But when you’re talking fiction — which most of the time equates to entertainment — a little fluffiness is not only fine, I truly think it should be the everlasting standard.

And purposefully including a happy ending in your tale might encourage others to get to the other side of their own struggle, whatever it may be.

So, don’t be the person who blows everybody’s reading world to smithereens. Be the one who inspires us to reach that goal, obtain that promise, seek that fresh horizon.

Please.

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18 thoughts on “It Is Not Too Much To Ask For A Happy Ending”

  1. This is a very good post. I mean that. I remember teaching a course in the Modern Novel. We read Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wharton, Faulkner…all the biggies. At the end of the semester, my poor students were so depressed. Not one novel they told me had a good ending. They all ended in total crap. I never forgot that.

    I agree with you. For a novel to be “realistic” it doesn’t HAVE to end with the protagonist gasping for life or losing every thing she loves and cares for. Why can’t the damn novel end with someone simply learning something decent or something that will make their life a bit better or stronger of both? I think that’s why I liked Kidd’s novel The Secret Life of Bees. It ends well and wisely.

    I loved your novel synopsis of the orphan. And I totally agree with everything you say! πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you. This is something I feel very strongly about, because in the last few decades, people are saying that the public in general aren’t reading very much – and I think this is a concrete reason why. There are lots of factors, of course, but when we live in a world with disease and war and climate concerns and *very real problems,* this often means when we turn to something for entertainment, we’d like a little *unrealism*.

      Overall I didn’t care for The Secret Life of Bees (just the style and me didn’t gel). But I do think it’s a good story (the movie was pretty good). And I definitely agree about the ending being fitting, and positive, and after we get attached to a narrator, we really want that to happen for them.

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  2. I AGREE! Sometimes, I just wish a character could get a break, I could easily get as much satisfaction if instead of fighting in a 100 year war, the MC would fight for a year, fall in love, and live somewhere quietly and happily! AMEN TO HAPPY ENDINGS!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! This is exactly my point. Stories do need conflict so that characters can grow. But why can’t we reward them after the conflict, rather than heaping more the-cosmos-must-hate-me onto them? Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. *whistles innocently in the corner* OKAY OKAY I do have a few happy endings. Vaguely happy. But I mostly go for the bittersweet ones or the pure tragedy. Because I’m awful and can’t help it, ahem. But I always found, even as a kid, that the bad endings were the ones I liked most because I’d think about the book much longer than I would for a happy ending? And also bad-things-happening endings can be somewhat inspiring. Any troubles suddenly don’t look so bad, kind of. That sort of feeling. 😜 But I totally get that there should be happy ending books out there for sure for those who want them! πŸŽ‰

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    1. There’s something to be said for bittersweet endings, if it’s done right. For example, A Tale of Two Cities (makes my top faves list every year), because although the hero (spoiler) doesn’t survive, we know that he sacrifices himself for the sake of several others, so we understand his decision and it makes sense.

      But I think if you’re someone who’s had a difficult life, then a bad ending just makes you feel more frustrated and depressed. I don’t even like to watch historical movies if there’s a sad ending, even though I know they’re simply referring to a real event, because I don’t need the reinforcement that crap happens. For many of us, we draw the inspiration from the war heroes who lived to be 90 on a farm in Ireland afterwards. πŸ™‚

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  4. I like variety. I’m never disappointed if there isn’t a happy ending, I just want to read a story that is insightful, intriguing and makes me think. Whether it ends happily or tragically, I just want the ending to make sense with the rest of the story.
    That said, I think this is a great subject to discuss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes I know that there can’t be a completely happy ending, or it won’t work for the story (I cited A Tale of Two Cities above). But as long as there’s a silver lining, I won’t get upset.

      There’s also a big difference between how to approach the endings in adult fiction vs. children’s and teens. When I was younger, I had to have a happy ending, period. Also, my real life was difficult enough (between constantly changing schools – when autism means you hate sudden changes – and bullying and all of it), so when I read, I needed to be presented with the possibility of a different kind of life. Now that I’m an adult, and especially a parent, I feel that if I don’t include never giving up hope in the lessons I teach my kids, then I’m failing. After all, the only thing that drove me past being a suicidal teen and onto wanting to finish college and have a relationship and kids was the hope that one day things could get better.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I see what you mean in adult vs. Children’s and YA lit. I think we all read for different reasons, and each person reacts differently to any given book. That’s why book discussion is so great! Whether I love a book or hate it, I like hearing other reader’s opinion.

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      2. Also, I just want to add that I’m sorry you had so much on your shoulders at such a young age, I can see why you would want to read stories that had a hopeful, happy ending. That totally makes sense.
        Two books I read last year that both had morose endings were ‘So Shelly’ and ‘Infandous’. I really enjoyed the writing in both books, but I remember thinking to myself “How are these classified as YA?”. So I really do see that audience maturation plays a vital role in writing and story telling.

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      3. It’s why there are so many books sold under the YA label that should not be. I thought The Book Thief was a wonderful, accurate, heartwrenching portrayal of life for the average German in WWII…but I had serious reservations about letting White Fang watch the movie. I knew there was a silver lining to the story (having made it to the end of the book, when Death announced it was quite a long time before he came for Liesel – sorry, spoiler), but I truly don’t think that novel should automatically be targeting middle-schoolers purely because the protagonist is that age.

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  5. YES YES YES TO EVERYTHING IN THIS POST!!! ❀ Thank you SO much for sharing! I'm so very glad to hear that someone else has the same view as I do — and you put it SO. WELL. I just… I love this. Yes, let's have happy endings, and some good things happening in the book mixed in among the awfulness. YES PLEASE. You are so right — having good things happen in books gives me HOPE, and it helps me overcome my own problems. When a book ends bad it makes me depressed for at least a day, and I go to fiction to be UPLIFTED not torn down! Anyways, I could do a rant too but I just wanted to say I LOVE LOVE LOVE this! πŸ˜€

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